This week’s award for sheer, gallus, thievery goes to the formidable Iain Pope, for managing to rob me blind, promising me more of the same dastardly ill-treatment – yet still making me laugh out loud in the process.
These days Popey spends his days helping guide the good ship Daily Record as part of the paper’s impressive current newsdesk line-up, led by recently appointed news editor, Andy Lines. (I can only guess that any newsdesk peopled by Andy, Popey, Kevin Mansi, Chris Mooney and Viv Aitken, is going to be a lot of fun to work on – as newspapers should be).
However, the first time I met the Pope-mesiter was back in the early noughties when we both turned up to report on a robbery at a corner shop just off Easter Road. The exact details escape me – but it’s fair to say it would be astounding for two reporters to turn up for such a minor event these days.
Popey was scrubbed, well-ironed and lemon-scented fresh – because it was his first week of work as a new reporter on the Edinburgh Evening News. As the eager beaver new boy he’d been dispatched by the newsdesk keen to test his mettle and to see how he’d respond to being fired out on some tuppence-ha’penny grocery store hold up.
Me? I turned up because I had only just set up Deadline Press and Picture Agency (as happenchance would have it, I’d not long vacated the very same seat at the Daily Record newsdesk whis is now occupied by … yep, Iain Pope) and said crime scene was literally two minutes walk from our new offices. In fact, I think I might have taken a 30-second detour while out buying a link sausage roll for my breakfast!
Enough already. The rub is that when I saw the hulking figure looming towards me on that quiet Leith street I knew something was askance. The only other suited man who should have been there at that time of the morning was eitiher a cop – or a hack. Popey was a big fella then (he’d shrunk a bit last time I saw him, thanks to a vegetable and exercise regime, which was religiously recorded in the pages of the Daily Record) so I was erring on the side of him being from the local CID.
But naw, it quickly transpired that the local rag had dispatched its wet-behind-the-ears greenhorn to report on the robbery. So, I confess I was left perplexed and wondering how come the poor oaf wasn’t really very oafish? In fact, he struck me as a bit of a wise-cracking, patter merchant who wasn’t remotely awed by my “I used to be at the mighty Daily Record, you know” schtick.
He was also just a bit too slick at sliding in ahead of me, asking all the best questions, then swiftly announcing: “Right old son, got to be off – I’ve got to file for edition,” and just like that he was gone, leaving me with the feeling I’d been visited by an 18st, parting-smoothed-by-his -mammy apparition. Until the paper dropped a few hours later and sure enough, there was a page lead with an Iain Pope byline.
I knew a star had arrived at the Evening News and that proved the case as Popey moved swiftly up the food chain. One thing is certain, the old trademark Pope Patter remains undimmed. As does the blunt speaking (he once nicknamed a colleague Tailpipe because … ach, better let Iain explain) as evinced by the message I received from the big fella this week:
Scottie, I come to you a humble and chaste man. Like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie. I shamelessly stole your anecdote about the lad Cowie asking how he would recognise the naked rambler and put it the Off The Record diary, which I am putting together for a week. There you are, I have admitted it and already confession has begun to cleanse my thieving soul. Any more gratefully received. If you don’t email me anything, I’ll just f*****g lift it from your blog anyway.
There you have it, apology, threat, act of information supehighway robbery and history lesson all rolled into just 87 words. And from corner shop raids to full-blown internet piracy in a few short years.
You just can’t help but admire style like that.